10 Ways to Participate in Sexual Assault Awareness MonthApril 04, 2012
Last week, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) gave an eloquent speech advocating for the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act. In addition to sharing her own stories of sexual abuse, she said that “violence against women is as American as apple pie.”
Sadly, she’s right. A December 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that as many as many as 1 in 3 women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. And as more and more men come forward with their sexual abuse stories, it’s clear that sexual abuse does seem to be an American tradition.
This is not OK. But you can speak out and challenge this tradition of violence. Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, now is the perfect time. Here are 10 ways that you can get involved.
1. Believe and help survivors if they confide in you. Visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) website to find information that will help you help the survivor. They also have information to help you — the friends and family of survivors.
- Are you in the military? Call RAINN’s Safe Helpline, which is specifically for survivors in the military.
- Are you male? Visit 1in6, a website with resources designed specifically for you.
3. Write your senators. Send a quick e-mail or make a phone call to your senators asking them to reauthorize the Violence against Women Act. This is an issue that the AAUW Action Fund Lobby Corps, a volunteer group of AAUW members, has focused on over the last few months. They’ve succeeded in adding more senators as co-sponsors, but your help is still needed.
4. #TweetAboutIt. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a variety of tools each year for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, they’re hosting a Tweet about It Tuesday discussion on Twitter every Tuesday at 2 p.m. EDT throughout April. They’re using the hashtag #TweetAboutIt. Read more and join in.
5. Wear jeans on April 25 as part of Denim Day in LA and USA. The day is a visible way to protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. Order their Denim Day Action Kit and raise awareness at your workplace, neighborhood, or community. AAUW staff participated in 2011, and I recently ordered pins for us to wear when we participate again this year.
6. Advocate against military sexual assault. Sexual assault in the military is a well-documented problem, and addressing it is one of the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund’s current priorities.
- Donate to AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund case-support program. AAUW is currently supporting two sets of plaintiffs — former service members who say that they were raped or sexually assaulted by their co-workers and who are bravely suing the U.S. Department of Defense.
- Sign a petition addressed to the U.S. Senate asking them to support H.R. 3435, the STOP Act, and H.R. 1517, the Holley Lynn James Act, laws that would require the military to do more to address sexual violence.
- Watch the trailer for the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award-winning documentary The Invisible War, which is about military sexual assault. The film features the lead plaintiffs in the two Legal Advocacy Fund-supported cases and will be released in theaters on June 15, 2012.
7. Do something about campus sexual assault. The rates of campus sexual assault are quite high, yet prevention programs or proper channels for handling perpetrators are often inadequate.
- AAUW and Students Active for Ending Rape created a Program in a Box with ideas for concrete action that can lead to concrete change. Download the free guide.
- Download the brand new Circle of Six phone app, which was designed so that people can quickly send a “come and get me” message to their designated circle of friends. Those friends will receive a map showing the location of the person who is in danger.
- Bring Men Can Stop Rape’s new bystander campaign to your local campus.
8. Use the arts or join a march. Take part in or organize arts-based initiatives or a march to raise awareness about sexual assault. Get involved in one of these popular initiatives:
- The Clothesline Project: Women affected by violence decorate a shirt and hang it on a clothesline in public as testimony to the problem of sexual violence.
- V-Day: Communities can hold a performance or a film screening to raise awareness about violence against women and girls and to raise money for local organizations that are working to end violence. Last week, AAUW sponsored a Vagina Monologues performance hosted by the D.C. Women’s Theater Group, and the proceeds went to RAINN. Visit the V-Day website to learn more about how to organize a V-Day event.
- White Ribbon Campaign: By wearing a white ribbon, you can make a personal pledge to “never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” You can order materials online.
- Take Back the Night March: Popular on college campuses, this march takes place after dark and makes a statement that women have the right to be in public at night without the risk of sexual violence. Order a kit online.
9. Apply for a grant for campus programs. On a rolling basis, AAUW members can apply for AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund Campus Outreach Grants and receive up to $750 to hold an event about sexual assault on a local campus. This April, AAUW groups in Arkansas, Illinois, and New York are hosting campus events on this topic.
10. Apply for a grant for academic or community work. AAUW’s fellowships and grants offer numerous funding opportunities for members of the public. Some of the current and past awardees have focused their work on sexual violence issues, and you can, too. Read the application information.